Sunday, August 8, 2010

Post-1864 election article from Harper's Weekly

Here's another article from Harper's Weekly, this one from the November 26, 1864 edition.The editors make their feelings about the leaders of the two sides in the Civil War very clear in this piece on page 754 (the second page of this weekly edition.)


The president's two speeches in acknowledgment of the serenades after the election are the noblest expression of the universal public sentiment. There is no personal or partisan exultation. The issue was too solemn for that. There is the same sober joy as after a great victory or a narrow escape.

It has been customary for foreigners, and many among ourselves, to speak of Mr. Lincoln as the rebels speak of him, and to celebrate Jefferson Davis as a gentleman and a polished intellectual statesman. Will such persons compare Davis's recent speeches at Macon, Columbia, and elsewhere, or his earlier speeches in the war, with any speech of Mr. Lincoln, and especially these two last, and then say which of them are the manlier and more honorable? With malignant fury, which not even his trained coolness can conceal, Davis hisses that he would sooner fraternize with hyenas than Yankees; or in his foolish rage speaks of the "Beast" Butler. Is this the style of a statesman? Are these specimens of the intellectual superiority which distinguishes Jefferson Davis? Or is it the scurrility of a baffled conspirator, and the venomous malice of a disappointed rebel?

Nothing in the history of the war is more striking than the different spirit in which it is waged by the loyal citizens and the rebels. Indeed, the murderous and wicked olive-branch policy, which has so prolonged and embittered the struggle, is due to the want of proper insight and a more wholesome indignation upon the part of loyal citizens. From the beginning it was not only war, but war made upon the Government by men who had been taught to hate "the North" and "Northerners." And while rebels have been starving and slaughtering in every horrible way Union men at the South, and Union soldiers from the North, we have gone on mumbling "conciliation," until we were likely to be overthrown by our obstinate refusal to understand our enemies. 

We have learned now what they are. The election plucks off the olive branches and throws them away; and declares that conciliation is a word to be spoken to rebels when they submitted and not before. Yet there is no personal hate mingled with this resolution. As a class the rebels are regarded by the most strenuous loyal citizens as sophisticated and deluded; as men who must be taught by superior force to regard their obligations as citizens of the United States, but that is all. In no official paper or speech of the Union authorities has there been any expression of malignity toward the insurgents, nor will there be. Engaged in defending their Government, which is the sole security of their peace and prosperity, the people of the United States yield to no unworthy emotion. They are faithfully represented by the man whom they have again made their President. They feel in their successes "no taint of personal triumph; "but they are resolved, as he says, through every fortune, "to stand by free government and the rights of humanity." 

One of the two post-election Lincoln speeches mentioned in the article appears at the end of this long article concerning the election of 1864Here is the text of that speech.

It has been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies.
On this point the present rebellion brought our republic to a severe test; and a presidential election occurring united, in regular course during the rebellion added not a little to the strain. If the loyal people, were put to the utmost of their strength by the rebellion, must they not fail when divided, and partially paralyzed, by a political war among themselves, but the election was a necessity.
We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us. The strife of the election is but human-nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case, must ever recur in similar cases. Human-nature will not the change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as a strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.
But the election, along with its incidental, and undesirable strife, has done good too. It has demonstrated that a people's government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was possibility. It shows also how sound, and how strong we still are. It shows that, even among candidate of the same party, he who is most devoted to the Union, and most opposed to treason, can receive most of the people's votes. It shows also, to the extent yet known, that we have more men now, than we had when the war began. Gold is good in its place; but living, brave, patriotic men, are better than gold.
But the rebellion continues; and now that the election is over, may not all, having a common interest, re-unite in a common effort, to save our common country? For my own part I have striven, and shall strive to avoid placing any obstacle in the way. So long as I have been here I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man's bosom.
While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election; and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result.
May I ask those who have not differed with me, to join with me, in this same spirit towards those who have?

And now, let me close by asking three hearty cheers for our brave soldiers and seamen and their gallant and skilful commanders.

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